A brief epistle on the meaning of life


Survival and basic needs having been met, the further meaning of life is to live a meaningful life.

That’s what I’ve been raised to believe, and what I believe to this day. Money, goods, even power, are ephemeral. At worst, they are distractions, at best, means to an end. Meaning is the end. The goal. The raison d’etre. I desire a meaningful life, and strive to achieve it.

The only snag is that I never found out what the meaning is supposed to be.

I’ve tried politics and it made me evil. I’ve tried love and it made me sad.

Some of the best people I know are religious, but while I admire some of the effects of faith used in the service of good, the basic premise doesn’t convince me. I’m not a movementarian.

I’ve tried philosophy. Twice. I found hamster wheels for the brain, book-thumping without the benefit of a Bible. Fun for a while, but the institutions of academia do not hold my answer.

I’ve tried art. God help me, I’ve tried art.

I still haven’t found, or been able to invent, what I am looking for. So I am still looking. Maybe that’s all there is. The idea that the journey is the destination, that the quest for meaning means more than what you find or make up in the end, is hardly original. That doesn’t mean it has to be wrong.

The only thing that I know to be true about my life is that I am going to die. So is everyone I love, everyone I hate, everyone I ever met. Using that as my starting-off point, I try to live my life by one rule: Will I be able to remember this fondly if I get the chance to reminisce before I die?

I try to be good to people, try to experience interesting things, and try to be a positive force in the world. I try not to be evil, cruel, boring, greedy, or petty. It’s not much, but it is something. Granted, I could see some people recalling favorite acts of assholery, backstabbing and getting personal or pecuniary pleasures by hook and/or crook fondly, but I have grown a moral backbone in spite of myself. I try to be good, and I want to be good.

I am a journalist. I believe in journalism, in trying to disentangle the complexities, lies and half-truths of society and everyday life in order to get at what lies behind. In order to inform and illuminate, not bamboozle or pander. I believe that beliefs need to be challenged.

I believe that. I believe that I am free to do this at the comparatively tiny, marginal newspaper for which I work. Not to change the world, not to change even tiny Norway, but at the very least I am free to do right by the virtues I have chosen.

But that’s just what I do, not who I am.

On the other hand, maybe that’s all there is.



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